An "Untethered" Case Against Data Caps

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by danielsmu, Jun 3, 2010.

  1. danielsmu macrumors regular

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    May 5, 2010
    #1
    I’ll start by saying I’m truly surprised by the seemingly positive reaction on these forums to AT&T’s announcement of tiered data plans. From what I’ve read, most users who are in favor of the data caps are either a) Looking forward to saving $5-$15 a month because their usage falls well below the current cap limits, or b) Enjoying the idea of frivolous users consuming upwards of 10GB a month due to tethering, streaming, etc. finally being brought back to earth and thereby improving network performance for everyone else.

    I would submit that both of these points pale in comparison to what the introduction of data caps represent to our current internet existence as we know it.

    Just because you don’t consume more than 200MB of data wirelessly today, doesn’t mean you won’t want substantially more data next year. Or the year after. Or the year after. Step away from this specific issue for a minute and consider how your "wired" data usage varied 5 years ago prior to the introduction of services like Youtube or Pandora. 500MB a month might have been more than you could handle and based on the responses I’ve seen in the last 24 hours, many would have welcomed a 500MB/month data cap if it saved them $5-$15 off of their internet bill.

    I realize I’m using desktop/wired internet services to make my point about a different arena, but please realize that the world of wireless high-speed data services is basically still in its infancy (not to mention new technologies that are in the works like location-based apps, VOIP, etc.) While 200MB of data a month might be more than enough for you right now, it’s short-sighted to expect the average user’s data consumption to remain at current levels based on growth in recent years.

    What this most likely means for you is that as your bandwidth needs increase, average users will likely start meeting and exceeding the 200MB or 2GB caps and will be subject to some kind of overage charges. Based on current overage charges for voice and text messages, these overages will likely be enough of a financial deterrent to cause the average customer to have to monitor their usage to keep from paying relatively high penalty fees for exceeding their plan amounts.

    Welcome to the new internet. A world where you receive an e-mail link to a video of your baby nephew’s first steps and you get to check how many megabytes you have left for the month before you decide whether or not to click on the link and pay overage fees or wait until the first of the month. A world where you receive a video chat request from your grandmother but you have to decline because you just watched last night’s office episode on hulu and you’re out of megabytes for the month.

    The counter arguments I expect to receive to this are that a) the services I’m referencing aren’t widely used on mobile devices and/or b) desktop or wired internet (for most of us) doesn’t use data caps.

    To the first objection (a), check back with me in 5 years and let me know if you still think 200MB or even 2GB a month for your mobile data is sufficient. Then, if you think AT&T is going to drastically increase these caps at the same price out of the goodness of their hearts, please allow me to remind you that they are a company, not a charity, and they love upselling customers to a higher tier/cost plan almost as much as they love charging overage fees.

    To the second objection (b), if you think AT&T U-Verse, Time Warner, Comcast, etc. haven’t already been testing the data cap waters for wired/desktop internet plans, you haven’t been reading the (tech) news. Make no mistake, if AT&T proves that wireless customers are willing to accept data caps without much fuss for a nominal discount, expect similar announcements in the next year from Verizon, Sprint, Time Warner, Comcast, etc. Data caps are about making money for these companies and moving the internet into their outdated tiered business model, not saving the average customer money.

    The unlimited internet as we know it is a good thing for everyone in the long run and it’s worth more than the $5-$15 a month scrap AT&T is offering you to give it up.
     
  2. Revelation78 macrumors 68000

    Revelation78

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  3. lovemyipad macrumors member

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    #3
    Exactly!
     
  4. jman240 macrumors 6502a

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    May 26, 2009
    #4
    I have a feeling these plans wont last. After all the ATT vs Verizon crap, ATT just gave Verizon the best ammo "Our data plans are still unlimited."

    I just love that ATT kept touting "fastest 3g network", should replace it with "fastest 3g network you can't use because you've reached your cap sucka!"
     
  5. Revelation78 macrumors 68000

    Revelation78

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    #5
    Unfortunately Verizon will follow suit.
     
  6. Small White Car macrumors G4

    Small White Car

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    #6
    If AT&T had given me a 500 MB capped plan in 2007 then it would have been cheaper than 'unlimited' was then and that would have been great. And then they would have raised the capped plan to 2 GB now and it'd still be cheaper than 'unlimited.'

    So, yeah, that would have been great then and now.


    Guess what? You can still have unlimited internet. What do you want? 10 GB? Great, it'll cost you $105. But you can have it!

    Don't try to play this off as some kind of big moral issue. AT&T is greedy for wanting more money? Yeah. But guess what...you're ALSO greedy for wanting the $105 plan for $30.

    It's all about money. AT&T wants it. You want it. We all want it. You're no different from AT&T in this regard. Use as much internet as you want. No one is stopping you.

    The fact is, spectrum bandwidth is limited and there will only be more and more and more people wanting it in the future. (The "average" person still doesn't have a smartphone yet.) There is no way to create more specturm, so as usage goes up the only thing to do is restrict use. There is no going back, this is the way the future has to be so you'd better get used to it.
     
  7. Gjeepguy macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 19, 2010
    #7
    Time Warner alread has tiered data plans....

    Road Runner Lite :
    .....768 Kbps down 128 Kbps up
    Road Runner Basic :
    .....1.5 Mbps down 256 Kbps up
    Road Runner Standard with PowerBoost®
    .....7 Mbps down 384 Kbps up
    Road Runner Turbo with PowerBoost®
    .....10 Mbps down 512 Kbps up
     
  8. iPhone3GCrazed macrumors 6502

    iPhone3GCrazed

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    #8
    Agreed, 100%. With the addition of things such as Netflix streaming (hopefully) and video chat, even 2GB might not cut it.
     
  9. chriskzoo macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2005
    #9
    I think the pricing is fair and it's at least brought "overage" data back into the realm of reality. Essentially they are charging $25 per 2GB of data - if you run out before your 30 days is up, you can reup for another 2GB for $25 and it extends from your reup date. If you are more frugal, you save $15 a month on the $15 plan and even have the option of bumping up to the 2GB plan for an extra $10 just for the remainder of the month if you need extra data in a particular month.
     
  10. Small White Car macrumors G4

    Small White Car

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    #10
    Actually, those are what are called "congestion pricing." They're the alternative to tiered data...capping data speed instead of data amount.

    This works well for cable because they ALREADY cap speed when congestion gets high. So everyone takes these hits...these price levels just "excuse you" from the worst of it.

    AT&T considered this for the iPhone but thought it was too confusing for mobile users. So they're going with tiered instead. (Also, cable internet is fast enough the slowing it down still gives a usable speed. AT&T doesn't really have that option since it's a lot slower to begin with. That may be the REAL reason they didn't go that way.)
     
  11. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

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    Oct 9, 2006
    #11
    It will be watch and see what Verizon does to respond to this. I hope Verizon response is to also start tier data pricing but at more reasonable numbers.

    The numbers being like $15 for 1 Gig of data
    $25 for 2
    and $45 for unlimited.

    If you go over your limit they just bump you to the next tier. Not this crap AT&T is doing were they charge you an insane rate.

    That or if they bump you from 1 gig to 2 gigs they would charge you like an extra $15 and then if you use another gig they charge you an extra 20-30 and make you go unlimited.
     
  12. Small White Car macrumors G4

    Small White Car

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    #12
    Yeah, that will be the way they compete in the future...they'll all be capped but will try to give more data for the same price.

    In the past they argued over coverage and speed. Those will become less important in future advertising since everyone's network will get better over time so the difference won't be that big of a deal anymore.

    Like, remember how computer-makers bragged about processor speed in the 1990's? When was the last time you saw an ad bragging about that and that alone? It just doesn't matter anymore.

    Cell phone carriers will go through a similar transition soon.
     
  13. spyda macrumors 6502a

    spyda

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    Jun 30, 2009
    #13
    I just find it funny for those who actually believe this sole measure will "increase network performance". Not happening.
     
  14. Small White Car macrumors G4

    Small White Car

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    #14
    It won't increase it, no, but it will prevent it from locking up in 5-10 years.

    Most people don't even have smartphones yet. What happens when they all have smartphones and tablets and laptops and all 3 devices are on some kind of cellular network?

    It will be impossible to give everyone unlimited everything on those devices. Companies will have to get people to limit themselves. The alternative is to go back to blocking specific things like not allowing Hulu or Netflix or Video Chatting.

    I'd much rather give everyone an allotment that they can use however they like. If I want to Video Chat 24/7 then I need to take my Hulu-watching over to Wifi. Or if I'm really, really into Netflix then I need to save Pandora for Wifi.

    Point is, I'd rather make that choice than have AT&T make it for me (as they've been doing in the past).

    And hey, like I said. You can get 10 GB for $105. With the old way of doing things you couldn't get Skype or Hulu over AT&T no matter what you paid. So I much prefer money-barriers to hard-bans. They at least give you a choice in the matter.
     
  15. wovel macrumors 68000

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    America(s)!
    #15
    Now you understand why they can't continue to do it. It is also worth a lot more than the $30 a month the heavy consumers were paying. With a small percentage of users consuming the vast majority of resources, AT&T could have either raised the price for everyone, asked the people actually consuming the resources to pay more, allowed the resource hogs to continue to diminish everyone else's experience, or gone broke.

    It really is that simple. They made the choice that is both best for them and best for the consumers. Unlimited data plans were a mistake for wireless with current technology because of the limitations of current wireless technology allowing a small portion of the population to diminish the experience for everyone else. While the same can happen with land based service, it is far easier and less expensive to maintain performance. Every 3G network in the US is operating far below potential.

    AT&T certainly screwed over iPad 3G users, but everyone else is being treated very fairly. Your arguments are a little interesting but do not take into account the fact that carriers are in a competitive business and will likely offer different pricing plans as user demands increase. I would much rather pay for my consumption and maintain the ability to make an informed purchasing decision based on my needs than subsidizing the usage of others.

    AT&T will inform you when you are approaching your current limit and you can upgrade (and downgrade) between data plans without charge. The "insane" rate of $10 per GB is less than the $12.50 per GB for the first 2...
     
  16. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

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    #16
    You can't cap speeds on wireless because wireless offers no guarantee of speeds. Cable and DSL companies can do it because they can generally guarantee you get what you pay for, or pretty close. I pay my ISP for an 18mbps connection, and I always get very close to that. With wireless, there are many other factors that can affect speed. Number of users, distance from tower, phone's radio power, radio interference, building construction, terrain, even the weather can affect your speed (humidity=bad for radio waves). And if you're roaming, you're at the mercy of the carrier you're roaming on, you'll get what they give you. Wireless companies can't say "Pay $X for 1.5mbps, pay $Y for 3mbps" because they can't guarantee those speeds you're paying for, sometimes due to factors outside of their control. So they have no choice but to cap data transfer instead.
     
  17. Small White Car macrumors G4

    Small White Car

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    #17
    More good reasons. It makes me even more confused why AT&T said they didn't do this because customers would be confused. Why not just say "It doesn't work so well for wireless" and just go with that?
     
  18. edk99 macrumors 6502a

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    FL
    #18
    Your whole assumption is that over time your usage will increase (most likely will) and that ATT has this hard 200mb and 2gb cap that WON'T EVER change.

    I would wager to bet that as their network capacity increases that over time the 2gb cap will become 5gb cap or more and probably come back out with an unlimited plan at some point.

    I don't agree with what they are doing but it is their network and they can do what they want.

    I would of liked them still have an unlimited plan now and maybe charge more maybe $40 a month??

    Also don't like that fact that in the 2gb data plan they don't include tethering. If they are giving me 2gb to use for $25 then I would like to use it as I see fit.
     
  19. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

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    #19
    I think either answer is the right answer. It would be confusing to some people, plus, it wouldn't be practical.

    "You can pay for speeds A, B, or C, but those are only on 3G, so if you go into an EDGE coverage area, the maximum speed is D which is slower than A, B or C." Not to mention if you live in an EDGE coverage area, you'd have to pay for one of the 3G speed tiers and won't get 3G most of the time, and maybe they could give you an even cheaper plan for being in an EDGE coverage area, but what happens if you temporarily travel into a 3G area? Does the phone remain on EDGE? Do you get on the 3G network but capped at EDGE speeds? And when 4G starts rolling out, then what? More new plans and speed tiers? I could see how customers would be confused as hell, not to mention the logistical and billing nightmare that would create.
     
  20. danielsmu thread starter macrumors regular

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    May 5, 2010
    #20
    What makes you assume they would have raised the cap to 2GB now? If everyone was capped at 500MB in 2007, this would have shaped how people used their iPhones since 2007 and I would argue that this would have limited the ways people are using their phones today. Is the loss of that innovation really worth $5-$15 a month?

    I’m also glad you have a lot of faith in AT&T keeping the customer’s best interests ahead of their bottom line (hypothetically increasing caps from 500MB to 2GB), but based on past experience, I don’t. Feel free to remind me again why the Google Voice app hasn’t been approved (or rejected) yet. If you believe that AT&T wasn’t involved in that decision from a standpoint of retaining text messaging fees at the expense of new technology, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

    You’re absolutely right about the 10GB tier option existing at the $105 rate. Please explain to me how that makes me greedy though for not wanting to pay a 350% increase for the same service I receive today. Otherwise, I assume you’ll have no complaints if your insurance company increases your bill by 350% for the same service you were getting last month. Paying more for the same thing is a valid complaint. Please don’t play the network congestion card here either because you were making the point specifically about “greed”.

    Additional spectrum options exist, they just haven’t been implemented yet. Feel free to google AT&T’s acquisition of the 700mhz LTE spectrum. I also look forward to your responses to my points on how data caps can potentially stifle new technologies like VOIP, video chat, and location based technologies.
     
  21. doubleatheman macrumors 6502a

    doubleatheman

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    #21
    The only reason I have not completely flipped out is because, I can keep my current plan.

    You said it well!

    Iv'e been saying it since I first hear about it.

    "Todays internet abusers are tomorrows average internet user"

    The idea of a cap makes me run the other way.
     
  22. Geckotek macrumors G3

    Geckotek

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    #22
    Not the same thing at all.

    Not true.

    http://daringfireball.net/2010/06/good_and_bad_regarding_att_data_plans

     
  23. Eso macrumors 68000

    Eso

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    #23
    Your argument is estentially, "While these caps are reasonable today, they won't be in five years."

    If you think it will be the same in 5 years (especially with the adoption of 4G networks), you're a fool.
     
  24. Small White Car macrumors G4

    Small White Car

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    #24
    As I said, these companies will be competing on price-per-GB in the near future. Past experiences don't mean anything when the future landscape changes drastically. That's the world they'll live in, they'll have to keep up.

    Then please tell me why you think Google lied to the Federal government in order to...what? Protect AT&T? I can't even think up a good reason why Google would do that. You'll have to explain your theory to me.

    Of course it is, and I'd complain about having to spend money.

    But that's not what you did. If you started a thread called "I don't want to give AT&T more money" I'd have left it alone. But you seem to be acting like this is something that should be avoided or changed in some way. But that can't happen. At least not forever. That's my criticism...the belief that unlimited mobile internet can last forever. It can't.

    Which can't keep up forever. They're just tremporary solutions, not real fixes. Demand will continue to outpace supply. There's no way it'll go back to the way it was before.

    Yeah, of course. But what do you want? They have to split up 5 pies for 10 people and you're telling me that half-pies aren't acceptable.

    What's the alternative? For 2 people to get whole pies and the other 8 to get 37% of a pie? That's not a better solution.
     
  25. danielsmu thread starter macrumors regular

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    #25
    Sorry...posting remotely now and can't quote reply very easily.

    So your basic point is that spectrum is a fixed resource and even with new tech like the 700mhz spectrum, there is too much demand today to allow unlimited plans.

    What is this based on? AT&T's projections? Not trying to be a jerk here, I'm just curious if you're basing this on any unbiased projections I'm not aware of.

    Your 5 pies to 10 people analogy hinges on the supply vs demand. Oxygen is a finite resource, but there's enough to go around to where I shouldn't have to breathe less.

    In terms of google and the FCC inquiry, please clarify how google lied to the FCC. As far as I can tell, they only responded based on what they were told by apple about the review process.
     

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